So with May 21st creeping up on us and the supposed end of the world incoming, I plan to fill this week in between movie posts (Priest review tomorrow. I had to wait to see it as my girlfriend wanted to see it and tonight is the only night we can do it) with a series of the world is coming to an end posts. However, I have been meaning to talk about the real end of a world that at one point was as important to me as this one, the World of Warcraft.
I don’t want to sound like one of those “I started playing WOW back in vanilla when questing and raiding was hard” jackoffs, but really, I am one (Classically trained raider image courtesy of the WOW t shirts). Back then you had to run on your mount (which you only got at level 40, not level 10. Of course, I was so broke I had to wait until I was level 47), flight paths were few and far between, and the lack of ease of battleground meant you were getting ganked and camped about every ten minutes. Five man raids were honestly hard and you wiped a lot, and when you wiped graveyards were miles away and you didn’t just fly back to your corpse. Raids required you to find 39 competent players and were wipe fests too. Just spending time in a raid dungeon did not mean you would eventually kill the boss. Epics were rare, and just having on tier 2 piece meant a huge difference in your DPS and survivability. I remember running into a AQ40 equipped hunter who kicked the crap out of me and two of my guildmates in spite of having decent T1 and T2 gear.
Then came Burning Crusade, which was a lot of fun. Raids were still tough, Outland was fun, and for the first time we had flying mounts. You had to be really good to see the death of the final boss in Black Temple (which I did, before they nerfed him). Overall a good effort, but the first signs that WOW was beginning it’s death spiral showed up. First of all, epic gear became much easier to get. Instead of being happy with decent blue gear and a few epics, now everyone was epic’d out about three days after hitting 70. Flying mounts, while cool, made stuff like farming minerals and herbs really easy. They made battlegrounds easier to get into, and I saw the first decline of world PVP.
This was also when we first saw the preview of the complete nerfing of the game in the form of raid addons. In vanilla addons were minimal, didn’t really work great, and were essentially complex macros that might or might not help, but even with them you still had to make sure you were on your game to stand in the right place, heal the right person, and hit you shot rotation correctly (I always played a hunter). No real alarms or anything. In BC we saw addons that pretty much made the game easier. Recount, Grid, Gatherer, Deadly Boss Mods, and any number of class specific addons made raiding and playing much easier. However, the game was complex enough to really need them. Overall BC was a great addon. Raiding and PVP was fun and challenging, and overall you still had to know what you were doing to play.
Then came the first mortal blow to the game, Wrath of the Lich King. Northrend sucked and was painfully boring. Battlegrounds got so easy to get into that no one did world PVP any more. Flying mounts, which earlier cost 5K gold and were something of an achievement to get, became ubiquitous and made things even easier. Most classes saw their game play simplified. Towards the end of BC all the losers who couldn’t play well complained to the developers about how they never saw the inside of Black Temple and whined about not seeing all the content, so Blizzard nerfed raiding to the point that most dungeons are raids were more of a gear check than anything else. They added hard mode for the really hard core raiders, but even so it was significantly easier than vanilla or BC. However, the thing that really nerfed the game was the addons. Blizz started incorporating popular addons into game play, but everyone with an ounce of programming skill were developing stuff to do everything by change your diaper for you. The ones that really hurt the game IMO were all the quest finding addons, showing you exactly where all your quest items or goals are located. At the time I thought they were cool, as they really saved time, but in retrospect I can see the end was near.
The one thing they did was added the achievements, which I jumped into with both feet. I loved getting achievements. I would play for hours trying to grind the most obscure stuff possible (if you know the game, you should either be really impressed or really sad for me in that I got the Insane in the Membrane achievement. Yes, I had no life). It was enough to keep me going.
Then came the final death rattle. Cataclysm. Instead of spending the time and money to develop a new zone (hey, writing new content is hard work) they just recycled a bunch of old code and let us fly around the old world, which they somehow made more boring. Addons, including the questing addons, were completely incorporated into the stock UI of the game. Most of the dungeons were simply a matter of time, not effort, and getting a dungeon group has become super easy, especially if you are a tank or healer. As I approached 10,000 achievement points I came to realize how achievements were really a never ending quest and a massive time sink. Every aspect of the game became easier and softer, catering to the casual gamer.
I think that is what does it for me. I don’t have the time or inclination to be a hard core raider anymore. However, if I am going to play I don’t want to be one of these casual player jerks. The problem is the game is either for super hard core raiders or freaking idiots who play a couple hours a week. There is no middle ground. The game has gotten so painfully easy to play it’s like reading one of those choose-your-own-adventure novels. Unless you are raiding hard mode there is no challenge whatsoever. I think this point was finally driven home for me one day when I was doing a quest that had me riding my mount underwater (remind me again why I spent all those hours fishing up the Turtle mount if any normal ground mount can swim underwater now). I got done and climbed to the surface. At that point I figured I was due for a long, grinding swim to shore to mount up on my flying mount. However, I had a mount macro that would mount my flyer if possible and low-and-behold, I was flying! How much easier can they make the game?
Anyway, WOW was fun while it was fun. I don’t regret the time I spent playing it (although I refuse the type /played as I am afraid the answer would send me into a serious depression). If you are a casual gamer who likes to log on for a couple hours on the weekend, or a hard core raider who puts in 30+ hours a week, than good on you. I won’t deny that there are people out there for whom WOW still fulfills a need. About three weeks before Wonder Con I stopped logging in as I was too busy, and haven’t logged on since. I really don’t miss it, and find myself more excited about writing long, bitchy blogs like this one. For me, the World of Warcraft is fail.